The Health and Social Care Select Committee has published evidence showing that an additional one million staff will be needed across health and social care in England by 2033/34 to keep up with projected demand.
The evidence was submitted by the Health Foundation charity to the Workforce Burnout and Resilience in the NHS and Social Care inquiry ahead of its final evidence session.
The written evidence highlights an NHS workforce gap of 115,000 fulltime equivalent posts in 2020/21 is projected to double over the next five years, exceeding 475,000 FTE staff by 2033/34. The figures do not take account of any potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NHS in England is likely to require workforce growth of 3.2% a year over the next 15 years in order to meet rising expectations for quality and range of care, and for services to adopt new technological advances.
The projected requirement is an additional 179,000 FTE staff by 2023/24, rising to 639,000 additional FTE staff by 2033/34 in what the Health Foundation calls a ‘modernised scenario.’
Anita Charlesworth, director of the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre, commenting on the Centre’s evidence, said:
‘Years of under-investment in the workforce have made the NHS and social care less resilient to the pandemic than they might otherwise have been.
‘Doctors, nurses, health care staff and care workers have been put under enormous strain over the last year, and the government now needs to take action to care for those who have cared for us.
‘A fully-funded, national workforce strategy should be at the heart of plans to recover the NHS and put social care on a sustainable footing. The NHS and care system needs to recruit and retain enough staff to get services back up and running, but they also need to safeguard the wellbeing of those currently working on the front line.
‘This can’t just be a one-off, England needs a long-term approach to workforce planning that is transparent, accountable, and ensures we have enough staff with the right training to provide high-quality care.’
In addition, the Health Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies projected that 458,000 additional FTE social care staff would be needed in England by 2033/34.
UNISON senior national officer Gavin Edwards said years of putting profit before people has ‘knocked the stuffing’ out of social care.
‘The pandemic has exposed the folly of failing to invest in social care. Vacancies are rising and morale is plummeting.
‘Years of poverty pay, a fractured and dysfunctional system that puts profit before people and the casual dismissal of staff as low skilled, have knocked the stuffing out of the sector.
‘To attract and retain the huge numbers of new workers needed, the race to the bottom that cuts pay, sickness allowances and holidays needs to stop.
‘National standards of employment like those in the NHS, worked out in partnership with social care unions, are needed urgently.’
The Committee has heard evidence about the scale and impact of burnout in the NHS and social care and staff mental health during the pandemic, as well as the level and impact of bullying and harassment in the workplace.
The inquiry’s final session took evidence from the Department of Health and Social Care minister for care, Helen Whately.
A government spokesperson said: ‘It’s crucial the care sector has the staff it needs both now and in the future, which is why we are currently running a national recruitment campaign, ‘Care for Others. Make a Difference’, to support providers to recruit into care roles.
‘Delivering a care system that is fit for the future remains a top priority and, following new measures set out in the Health and Care Bill White Paper, we will bring forward proposals for social care reform later this year.
‘That’s alongside the billions of additional funding we’ve provided to the sector, including over £1.4bn in specific funding for adult social care, free PPE and increased staff testing to help protect staff and residents throughout the pandemic.’
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